Kent day care centers see fewer clients, struggle to make ends meet

Megan Rozsa

Vicki Brant, administrator and head of day care for the Kent Church of the Nazarene Christian School, discusses her business’ losses Sept. 8, 2008. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

The cows aren’t changing, but the cost of milk is slowly changing– increasing, as a matter of fact.

Milk is more expensive because of the high cost of gas, which causes small businesses, like day care centers, to suffer dramatically.

The Kent Church of the Nazarene Christian School is one of many day care centers in the Kent area to suffer business losses because of the nation’s lagging economy. When costs rise, the KCN school is forced to adjust its prices, which may cause a drop in enrollment. This drop is what pains Vicki Brant and other day care directors.

Brant is the administrator and head of day care for KCN. She does what she can to keep her cost of tuition low, but sometimes it doesn’t always work.

“Some parents are making enough money to the point where they don’t qualify for the county funding they need to send their kids to school,” she said. “It can get as expensive as paying $300 a week if you have more than one child.”

Poverty in Ohio

The lagging economy is making it difficult for many families to support their own. These are facts about the poverty stricken people of Ohio. These facts are courtesy of the Akron Beacon Journal and a 2007 U.S. Census Bureau report.

• According to an article in the Beacon Journal, the number of Ohioans living under the poverty line is 13.1 percent.

nThe census shows Ohio’s 2007 household median was $46,597.

• Cleveland had the second highest poverty level, with 29.5 percent of the population below the poverty line in 2007.

• In nationwide medium-size cities (with the population between 65,000 and 249,999) Youngstown ranked ninth, with 32.6 percent in poverty. The national poverty rate was 12.5 percent.

The cost of tuition can be lowered when parents apply for co-pay from Portage County Job and Family Services. Brant said when this happens, the cost of tuition for one child per week is roughly $149.

Brant explained that when the cost of day care tuition stays so low, it’s hard for her to pay her six staff members. The money that comes into the day care equals outgoing expenses.

“They put in 40 plus hours a week to provide the quality care that parents expect,” she said. “My staff are way underpaid, and I’ll be the first to admit it. I wish I could pay them what they’re worth.”

She said she hasn’t lost any staff members because of the school’s low income, but many of them did have to take a month off to help Brant make payroll.

“Many weeks I went without pay so that my staff received pay,” she frowned.

On average, Brant spends $150 a week on groceries and supplies. She has to provide enough food to feed up to 40 mouths, including snacks and full meals.

“That’s bare minimum. That gets us lunch,” she said. Part of the budget also goes to buying “crayons, paper, glue, toilet paper, paper products and just general maintenance issues. Very rarely do we get special things.”

Fortunately, the day care splits the cost of heating and cooling with the church, so the burden isn’t entirely on the day care’s expenses.

Kim Pope, owner of Young Friends and Little Treasures Day Care Centers, is experiencing the same economic burdens on her businesses.

“A third of our budget goes toward groceries each month,” she said. “I’ve noticed the prices have gone up in the last three weeks. I spent $212 just on fruits, vegetables, stuff for salads, cereal, milk and bread.”

Her day care centers have to accommodate a wider age range than KCN, however. Where KCN only has to feed 3-year-olds and up, Pope has to feed infants and up.

“I’m not buying less food because I know what it takes (to feed everyone),” she said. “Plus, the state tells us what we have to feed them.”

Pope said her staff is also suffering from the increasing prices. She can’t afford to give them raises.

To compensate for losses at KCN, Brant said she cut back on special activities like Halloween parties. Instead, the school does fundraisers or asks for donations to fund the activities. Also, she changed shopping venues and washes dishes instead of buying paper products.

“We try to cut corners wherever possible,” she said. “We make due with the art supplies that we have.”

Business dropped dramatically in the summer at KCN – where the day care had the potential to have 40 children, it only averaged up to 15.

“It’s due some to cost because some parents right out told me that they couldn’t afford it every day for their school-aged child,” Brant said. “You know, part of me is happy for the kids that they’re not here, but the other half is scared because you have 9- or 10-year-olds who may be home alone during the summer, and that scares me.”

In the future, Brant hopes to see a change in education funding.

“I’d like to see the programs that are out there – Job and Family Services, Early Learning Initiative – they’re all great programs, but where their cutoffs (income levels) are are so low versus what the average parent brings in, that they miss those who are between the poverty level and medium income levels, those are the parents, the single moms, who are really hurting.

“I see this every day,” she said. “I see it in the kids.”

Contact public affairs reporter Megan Rozsa at [email protected].